Interview with Fashion Illustrator Alexandra Gritz
“Fashion is an extremely dynamic and vibrant world.”
Alexandra, can you share a bit about your background and what really drove you into drawing? It is a kind of natural for any kid to possess a passion of reflecting outward things on paper. Not every kid goes so far making a career in art (drawing), some choose different passion. But for me drawing is something that has been with me since my childhood – it`s really complicated to pick out specific starting point. I have an academic education in fine arts but before getting into illustration I have got to work at office as a game designer to make savings for a self career.
What inspired you to get into illustration in particular as opposed to other forms of art and design? Illustration is a form of interpretation of some story. It`s a special kind of art. On the one hand, you are limited by the context (in others forms of fine art a context may be absent totally). On the other hand you have got a whole wealth of imagination and forms of expression in order to see story in a new way and discover something that even has been invisible for its creator. To my mind, that is the core of illustration. And for me there is a lot of magic.
For those who don’t know, what does a fashion illustrator do? Fashion illustrators make sketches for fashion designers. So the designer could visualize concept before its production. That is it. It is much more technical work. Of course, fashion illustration today has significantly broader meaning. Illustration as a powerful tool of fashion interpretation found its application in publishing and advertising. Here is where technical work ends up and art begins. But unfortunately, a vast majority of fashion illustrators are not able to work at that level.
How would you describe your illustrative style? When you are trying to develop your own style you are always heavily influenced by the great masters (in my case – Edgar Degas, Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele). Thus, I can say I have been inspired by impressionism, Art Nouveau, and expressionism. You always could notice in your work the reflection of somebody’s style. It’s hard to not make a copy in some extent. Making unique style which could be your signature is a pipe dream for any artist, does not matter of what you are making – illustrations or fine art.
Why did you choose fashion as a focus of your work? What attracted you to it? Fashion is an extremely dynamic and vibrant world. And it`s getting more and more diverse. The debates about the current role of trends are still going. It seems like today there is a place in fashion for any designer and artist who has an unique, bold, complex style and what is more important – who can make series and present himself/herself through an art performance which can be a sort of a game with client. In my subjective opinion fashion is the only place where the entire power of illustration can take place.
How do you get your ideas for new illustrations? Do you keep a notebook to keep track? Trivially but when you concentrate enough and grasp all your imagination, you understand very soon that ideas are everywhere, it is all around you – just look up. There is no need to wait for some momentary inspiration.
You are plunged into work more and more and at the some “magic” point you start seeing things from a different angle. So, I don’t believe in keeping track of ideas, keeping a notebook or a Moleskin (it’s very fashionable now). All I need for good ideas is to get to work – wherever you are and whatever you have got with yourself.
What mediums do you use? What are the benefits of using watercolor in fashion illustration? Watercolor is a such a democratic technique. It easy to handle and at the same time you can get highly saturated and colorful images. With watercolor you can work everywhere and without a considerable preparation. Different types of cotton paper plus watercolors plus pens or watercolor pens is all what you need. It is more about convenience. Clients like magazines or creative studios are always in a rush (double rush in fashion world) and when they asking you to make a series of illustrations, it is just easier and time-saving to bring them watercolor artworks. Of course, any medium has its unique advantages. And for instance, if I am preparing artworks for an exhibit, I will definitely work with oil, acrylic and pastel.
Let’s talk about creating an illustration from scratch. How do you start, what steps do you follow and how long does it take to complete a drawing? When I have got clear ideas in mind it is easy to sit down, take a paper and make something worthwhile within an hour. Unfortunately, it does not happen all the time. Generally, I have got to dig out a bunch references, spoil a bundle of paper, find right music to create the right mood and may be in the end of the day I will get an illustration for which I will not be ashamed.
What is the most important aspect, for you, when you draw a new piece? What is the one thing you care about, the most? I always try to get vivid image, live image, live character – that is when you take a look at the image and you never see it frozen. You see it in motion, in dynamics – you see a game of images which is in intersection of the future and the past. You always see the story behind it, even if you do not know the context by which it was created.
What attracts you in a garment? What are the first details you look at? It seems like garment was never just a garment. It is a part of social communication. It is spectacular to watch how brand and designers are trying to reveal the identity of the buyer. It is like a game – buyers are trying to understand fashion, designers are trying understand buyers. So, when I look at the garment I see a sort of a part of social dialogue.
Firstly I care about the harmony of a shape and its overall thoroughness. I would like to see that nothing gets out of the shape.
Is illustration the only type of art that you do? Do you ever get bored and want to do something different? I don’t consider myself just an a fashion illustrator. I am making interior and architectural illustrations, beauty and lifestyle illustrations, garment concepts, make fine art paintings. When you are working with imagery, field of its applications is enormous.
Who are your favorite designers to illustrate? Why? Marc Jacobs is at my personal top and I cannot exactly explain why. My best sketches are about his collections. It is just working out. I also find a lot of inspirations in aesthetics of Erdem. Marc Jacobs and Erdem are completely different, but it seems to me like I do understand them.
What has been one of your most challenging assignments? Anything that is new for you is quite challenging. It`s natural. When I was asked to make an animation video for one fragrance brand – it was challenging assignment. Now I am working on display and interior design for a concept store – it’s pretty challenging. So, it hard to outline the most complicated assignment. People see your style and ask to apply it for their own needs. They ask you to apply it to something that you have never done before. Every task is a little adventure.
Can you name us some of the fashion projects you worked on, that you are especially proud of? It is difficult to single out something. I am a very self-critical person and in very rare cases I can be satisfied with my work. It always seems like I could have done better.
What would you advise anyone who wishes to someday be able to draw like that? I would advise to practice constantly, to experiment with various materials and subjects. Also, even if you want to be just a fashion illustrator, do switch periodically into other types of illustrations, easel painting and graphics. So, consequently you will better see your mistakes and possibly it will push you to try new techniques and approaches.
Does being a part of the fashion industry affects your own style choices? How would you describe your personal style? In contrast to the fashion bloggers, brands do not bestow clothes for fashion illustrators. So, I may say that being in fashion industry did not affect my style choices – it`s a joke). Speaking about my choices I prefer ascetic and minimalistic. Scandinavian style is more convenient for me. Actually I dedicate all my individuality and creativity to my work – it is my business card and my real face. I do not have much time to do my look even despite the fact that I’m a little versed in fashion trends and designers.
Is there anything you’d like to do in the future? Someone you’d like to work with or something you’d like to accomplish? Art installations – combination of visual images, sound and kinesthetic experience, experiments with light – that is what I would like to do at near future. I would be extremely happy to work with talented curators, sound and light engineers and try to work out something delightful. Maybe, it will be produced for a store or fashion event. Those who do contemporary art look at fashion and at any kind of design as something what does not deserve artistic approaches. Fashion looks at art as something that is cool but too risky to take it on. Barriers should be broken down and we yet have too few precedents.
Do you feel Photoshop has created a skewed perception of the ideal body image? Yes, absolutely! In a handmade work you can see a lot of mistakes and shortcomings. Ironically, but it bring life to final work. The ideal is such a lifeless thing. And actually I have come up to that thought not only in the field of fashion illustration.